Yellowstone National Park, our first National Park, is the only place in the continental U.S. where visitors can still see substantial herds of large mammals and the predators that hunt them. If you choose to visit the greater Yellowstone area this summer, you will likely see bison, elk, moose, deer, and big horn sheep. More rare, yet argueably more exciting are sightings of Grizzly bears, black bears, coyotes and the controversial Grey Wolf. Yellowstone has been called North America’s Serengeti and although we cannot compete with the millions of migratory animals of South Africa, YNP is much closer to home.
With the reintroduction of the wolf into Yellowstone National Park in 1995, all of the large carnivores native to the region at the end of the last ice age, again roamed the forests and plains of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The decision to reintroduce the wolves has been surrounded by controversy. I have no desire to delve into the politics surrounding the decision to bring the much feared and equally revered wolf back into the Yellowstone ecosystem, but from a purely selfish perspective I’m hoping for a glimpse of a Yellowstone wolf this summer.
I’ve seen wild wolves many times, but for some reason its never enough. When I was a young girl, I lived in a small town outside of Anchorage, AK. My house sat on the edge of a large forest, a cold, clear stream ran through my back yard. I spent many hours during the long Alaskan summer days roaming through the woods with my friends. One late afternoon as we walked along a narrow animal trail on a bluff above the stream we noticed a family of wolves had come down to the stream several yards in front of and below us. The parents were bright silver with haunting yellow eyes. I remember thinking they were keenly aware of their surroundings, constantly sniffing the air and looking around for danger. Instinctually, we all ducked down behind some low shrubs growing along the trail and watched in wide-eyed silence through the branches as the parents led their litter of young pups to the bank of the stream to drink. They didn’t drink for long before they disappeared into the forest again, but I was mystified, enraptured and intrigued. My mother didn’t believe my story until the adult wolves showed up in our back yard a few days later trying to find an easy meal from the trash cans behind our house. Those two sightings left me forever changed.
If you’ve been considering a trip to the Tetons or Yellowstone Park this summer, we’d love to have you join us where the wild things still live. There are several packs of wolves now residing within the borders of Yellowstone Park, with many of the wolf sightings concentrated in the Lamar Valley. Catching a glimpse of these elusive predators is an encounter you will not quickly forget.